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Double Happiness

Year: 1994
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 100 min
Director: Mina Shum
Producer: Stephen Hegyes, Rose Waddell
Writer: Mina Shum
Cinematographer: Peter Wunstorf
Editor: Alison Grace
Cast: Sandra Oh, Stephen Chang, Allanah Ong, Callum Rennie, Frances You
Production Company: First Generation Films Inc.

Mina Shum’s short film Me, Mom and Mona, which received a special jury citation at the Toronto International Film Festival® in 1993, described how the women of her family used laughter to cope with the traditional ways of a Chinese father and husband. In Double Happiness,her largely autobiographical, award-winning feature debut, Shum looks beyond the laughter to reveal the complex ties that bind a Chinese-Canadian family.

Jade Li (Sandra Oh) is an aspiring twenty-two-year-old actress in Vancouver who walks a fine line between the expectations of her traditional Chinese family and the values of contemporary Canadian society. Jade’s desires to move out of her family’s home and pursue her independence are tempered by her loving, dutiful nature and by the memory of her brother, who was disowned for a similar act of disobedience. Jade’s parents desperately want her to marry a Chinese man, a situation complicated by her deepening relationship with Mark (Callum Keith Rennie), a white university student. Jade’s two worlds can no longer be kept apart, and she is forced to make a choice.

However, there are no heroes or villains in this film, which skillfully examines Jade’s struggle to balance her individuality and freedom with her cultural expectations and her family’s rigid demands. Shum paints the members of this quirky extended family in gentle shadings, showing how each is willing to engage in some form of deceit in order to keep the peace.

By turns funny and serious, in both Cantonese and English, Double Happiness is evidence of Shum’s talent for finding humour in the details of a family’s daily struggles and her skill at gently uncovering the inherent ambiguities and contradictions of life in a multicultural landscape.

Released in Canada and major U.S. markets, the film was well received and was nominated for seven Genie Awards, winning for Oh’s captivating performance and Alison Grace’s editing.

Sound by Sharpe Sound Studios
Music by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet

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